Deck Tech: Esper Tokens

Posted in Event Coverage on November 1, 2015

By Corbin Hosler

There were nights Raymond Perez, Jr. didn’t sleep.

“I spent 80 hours testing this deck on Magic Online over the past two weeks,” the 2013-14 Rookie of the Year said. “Some nights I would just end up testing this deck all night long. I was sort of the workhorse and it was a lot of Magic, but it was worth it.”

So far, it has been. Perez finished Day 1 with just a single loss and won his first round Sunday playing the deck he’s perfectly tuned for Grand Prix Indianapolis: Esper Tokens.

One of the newer decks to hit the Standard scene, the deck first broke out during the Magic Online Championship Series with a Top 8 appearance, and Perez was one of several players to pick up on it since. With the metagame’s more popular decks like Dark Jeskai or Atarka Red more or less figured out, Perez said he wanted to come to Standard with something different.

“Everyone knows what to expect against those decks,” he explained. “After the Pro Tour I like to find a deck that not many people are playing and tune it as much as possible.”

Convinced by his Magic Online testing, Perez and teammate Adam Jansen settled on a list they felt was optimized against the field, and shared the list with Gold pro Christian Calcano. All three advanced to Day 2, with Perez leading the way at 8-1.

So what exactly is the deck, and why has it emerged so recently in a field full of Jaces and Siege Rhinos?

It gets the “tokens” moniker from Secure the Wastes alongside both Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Sorin, Solemn Visitor. Alongside a bevy of removal and additional token-makers in Hangarback Walker and Wingmate Roc, the deck can continuously create a board presence while controlling the opponent’s board with a diverse core of removal spells.

Raymond Perez, Jr. put in weeks of work to tune his Esper Tokens decklist, and it’s paid off with a deep run at Grand Prix Indianapolis.

The deck has a lot of variety in how it plays out, enabling Perez to take an aggressive or defensive route depending on what’s needed. Knight of the White Orchid not only “steals the play” from opponents when on the draw, but it serves as a solid attacker or defender. Similarly, Secure the Wastes can be fired off early for blockers against the aggressive decks, or held as as instant-speed alpha strike force against a control opponent.

“Secure into Gideon is just so hard to beat,” Perez said. “We’re the best Gideon deck in the format.”

It all sounds great, but what makes the deck able to beat the known contenders in the format?

“Jeskai and Abzan, all their two-for-ones get a creature and do something else like bring back a Jace, but those cards aren’t very good against us,” Perez explained. “Jace isn’t as good against us as it is other decks, and all their removal spells are just taking out one of many tokens. This deck goes wider than they’re able to deal with.”

Given its name, one would guess that Virulent Plague and Radiant Flames are problems for Esper Tokens, but Perez said they aren’t as bad as it might seem.

“We can just make more tokens after a Flames or make tokens on their end step,” he said. “A lot of people bring Plague and Dispel in after boarding, but we just board out Secure the Wastes and bring in counterspells and Silumgar, and our Planeswalkers all do other things as well.

“I think this deck is really well-positioned. It does things people don’t expect, and it turns the corner extremely quickly. It’s one of the best decks in the format right now.”

The 2013-14 Rookie of the Year leaned on the power of his token-producing planeswalkers to win his Round 10 feature match against Brandon Burton.

Esper Tokens — Ray Perez 

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